11 Blockchain Companies You Should Be Paying Attention To

Even though blockchain is arguably one of the most revolutionary emerging technologies right now, do you think you could name a blockchain company off the top of your head?

It’s hard to name more than a handful of blockchain companies today — the cryptocurrency and blockchain space are still relatively new, so most blockchain companies don’t get a lot of exposure.

But let’s say blockchain explodes in popularity soon. Knowing which companies already make headlines and which ones are due for some press would be useful — if you know which blockchain companies are poised for success and which ones aren’t, you’ll be more likely to pick the right blockchain company for your business and the right crypto assets for your investment portfolio.

With that in mind, read on to learn about the 11 blockchain companies you should be paying attention to today.

11 Blockchain Companies You Should Be Paying Attention To

1. Steem

Steem is like YouTube on blockchain, but instead of paying content creators in fiat currency, publishers use Steem to pay content creators in STEEM, the platform’s cryptocurrency, which is easily convertible to Bitcoin and Ether. Similar to how YouTube pays top content producers to create the platform’s best videos, publishers who use Steem can reward their top content creators and curators for publishing popular content.

To prove that Steem can be the future of content monetization, they built a social media network called Steemit on their platform. Steemit is still in Beta, but it has attracted over 920,000 users who publish more than 1.5 million posts each month. Steem has also paid content creators over $40 million in its digital asset, which are called smart media tokens, proving the platform’s viability to publishers everywhere.

2. Ripple

According to the Institute of International Finance, global payments cost $1.6 trillion each year and usually take an average of three to five days just to settle. Brad Garlinghouse, a former executive at AOL and Yahoo!, knew he could solve this frustratingly prevalent problem with blockchain technology, so, in 2012, he founded Ripple.

The company has its own payment infrastructure, RippleNet, and through it, banks, payment providers, and digital asset exchanges can connect with each other to seamlessly transfer money, no matter where they’re located.

Ripple’s technology allows banks to settle cross-border payments in real-time, lets payment providers use Ripple’s own cryptocurrency, XRP, to lower liquidity costs, and enables corporations to instantly send global payments to their beneficiaries. Over 75 banks across the globe have implemented and tested Ripple’s technology with their own internal payment systems.

3. Chain

Chain is a blockchain development company that builds cryptographic ledger systems for the financial services industry. Their blockchain-based tools help banks, stock exchanges, and credit-card companies quickly and securely store, trade, and manage financial assets.

By setting up strategic partnerships with financial titans like Capital One, Citigroup, Visa, and Nasdaq, Chain has accelerated Wall Street’s adoption of blockchain technology.

4. Intellectsoft

Founded in 2007 as a mobile app development company, IntellectSoft has evolved into a software solution development company that provides custom software development and consultancy services in emerging technologies, like blockchain, Internet of things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cloud computing and more.

For almost 11 years, they’ve helped organizations design, develop, implement and maintain the latest software solutions in their businesses. Their blockchain experts also boost enterprise and Fortune 500 companies’ security by integrating distributed ledger technologies, identity solutions, and smart contracts into their processes.

5. Altoros

Using Cloud Foundry, an open source cloud application platform, Altoros can build, test, deploy, and scale their customers’ blockchain frameworks easier and faster than other software development companies.

Throughout their blockchain consultancy process, Altoros helps enterprises evaluate the viability of their blockchain-based solution, design and develop the solution’s architecture, and maintain and enhance the solution for their client’s customers.

6. Celsius Network

Celsius Network is like a blockchain bank — users can deposit, borrow, and earn interest on their crypto. For instance, you can hold your cryptocurrency in the network and earn up to 5% interest, use your cryptocurrency as collateral for dollar loans at a 9% interest rate, and short Bitcoin or Ethereum if you feel bearish about the crypto market. It’s like banking on blockchain.

7. LeewayHertz

In 2008, Leeway Hertz launched one of the first apps on Apple’s AppStore. Now, they’ve jumped into another new industry, blockchain, to help enterprise companies develop Blockchain applications, like distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and decentralized apps.

As a custom software development company with a proven track record in IT consultancy, they plan to be the leading blockchain developer for the biggest brands in the world.

8. OmiseGO

OmiseGo is a Ethereum-based financial network for payment services, merchants, and financial institutions. Their public OMG network and decentralized exchange enable transparent, peer-to-peer transactions of any asset in real-time.

Digital wallet providers can also connect to the OMG network through their open source SDK to enable wallet-to-wallet transactions of crypto and fiat currencies and asset trades from different blockchain protocols. In August 2017, OmiseGO became the first Ethereum token with a market capitalization over $1 billion.

9. Blockchangers

Blockchangers isn’t like most blockchain companies. Even though they help their clients understand and leverage blockchain technology through lectures, workshops, consulting, and development services, like other blockchain companies, they consult their clients based off the assumption that governments will regulate cryptocurrency one day, which the creators of blockchain aimed to fight against. This is the most realistic way to consult clients who want to use crypto and blockchain — the only way governments can fight cryptocurrency fraud is by regulating it.

Blockchangers also hosts Northern Europe’s largest blockchain conference, Oslo Blockchain Day, and their clients include PwC, DNB Bank, and more.

10. ChromaWay

ChromaWay is a blockchain platform that provides smart contract solutions for real estate and finance companies. In 2017, they made headlines for building the Green Assets Wallet — a platform that connects green investors with potential investment opportunities — to help meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

11. Techracers

After a group of Indian engineers founded Techracers in 2012, the blockchain solutions provider experienced so much explosive growth that they had to move its headquarters to the U.S. in 2017. They’re now one of the most robust blockchain solutions provider on the market.

For their clients, Techracers build customized solutions in every facet of blockchain technology, like ICO launches, smart contract audits, smart contracts development, cryptocurrency development, cryptocurrency wallet development, cryptocurrency exchange development, and private blockchain development.

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25 Case Study Examples Every Marketer Should See

The saying “lead by example” is important in politics and leadership roles — and it’s also critical in marketing.

Sure, you can tell potential customers your marketing team is the best at running YouTube campaigns or effectively increasing a website’s cost-per-acquisition (CPA), but until you offer examples, they’re going to have a hard time believing you.

Putting together a compelling case study is one of the most powerful strategies for showcasing your marketing skills and attracting future customers. But it’s easier said than done — you’ve executed the campaign, you’ve collected the results, now what?

To help you create an attractive and high-converting case study, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorites. Take a look, and let these examples inspire your next brilliant case study design.

1. “Shopify Uses HubSpot CRM to Transform High Volume Sales Organization,” by HubSpot

What’s interesting about this case study is the way it leads with the customer. That reflects a major HubSpot credo, which is to always solve for the customer first. The copy leads with a brief description of why Shopify uses HubSpot, and is accompanied by a short video and some basic statistics on the company.

Notice that this case study uses mixed-media. Yes, there is a short video, but it’s elaborated upon in the additional text on the page. So while your case studies can use one or the other, don’t be afraid to combine written copy with visuals to emphasize the project’s success.

2. “Designing the Future of Urban Farming,” by IDEO

Here’s a design company that knows how to lead with simplicity in its case studies. As soon as the visitor arrives at the page, he or she is greeted with a big, bold photo, and two very simple columns of text — “The Challenge” and “The Outcome.”

Immediately, IDEO has communicated two of the case study’s major pillars. And while that’s great — the company created a solution for vertical farming startup INFARM’s challenge — it doesn’t stop there. As the user scrolls down, those pillars are elaborated upon with comprehensive (but not overwhelming) copy that outlines what that process looked like, replete with quotes and additional visuals.

3. “Secure Wi-Fi Wins Big for Tournament,” by WatchGuard 

Then, there are the cases when visuals can tell almost the entire story — when executed correctly. Network security provider WatchGuard is able to do that through this video, which tells the story of how its services enhanced the attendee and vendor experience at the Windmill Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

4. “Customer Case Study: ElliotLee Estate Agents” by Pioneer Business Systems 

 In 2018, 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. A video case study could be a compelling way to attract potential customers who prefer watching a video over reading text. Additionally, a video allows you to convey customer emotion. This case study by Pioneer Business Systems, for instance, allows viewers to see firsthand the effects Pioneer’s telephone system had on their clients, ElliotLee Estate Agents. It includes text, as well, to thoughtfully organize and break-up the video into sections.

5. “Sapio User Acquisition Case Study” by Fractl

Fractl uses both text and graphic design on their Sapio case study web page to immerse the viewer in a more interesting user experience. For instance, as you scroll, you’ll see the results are illustrated in an infographic-design form as well as the text itself. Further down the page, they use icons like a heart and a circle to illustrate their pitch angles, and graphs to showcase their results. Rather than writing which publications covered their news story, they incorporated the media outlet’s icons for further visual diversity.

6. “USA Today” by Fantasy

What’s the best way to showcase the responsiveness and user interface of a website? Probably by diving right into it, via video — which is exactly what Fantasy does on their case study page for USA Today. They keep the page simple and clean, with a large red play button embedded at the top, inviting you to review their redesign of USA Today’s website via video. The video itself is simple, showing the website’s interface and clicking on various links with simple instrumental music in the background.

If you’re more interested in text, you can scroll to find their goal, “make USA Today’s website responsive”, in one short paragraph, followed by a simple “1” icon, with the text “Became the most visited US News site.” Fantasy understands that, as a potential customer, this is all you need to know. Scrolling further, you’re greeted with a simple “Contact Us” CTA.

7. “Coca-Cola Uses App Annie to Amaze & Delight Customers” by App Annie.

(embed link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHo0SnZFTMw)

A video is a phenomenal way to grab a viewer’s attention, but in our video-heavy world today, it can be hard to keep potential customers’ eyes on the screen. To combat this, App Annie’s case study of Coca-Cola includes drawings and text to highlight what Greg Chambers, Coca-Cola’s Director of Innovation, is talking about on-screen. They also occasionally cut away from his face to include full-screen text. By incorporating graphic designs and text in their video, App Annie encourages viewers to stay engaged.

8. “How One Ecommerce Business Solved the Omnichannel Challenge with Bitly Campaigns” by Bitly

Bitly takes a different approach to text-heavy case studies, by providing their case study of ecommerce company Vissla in PDF form. The case study is clean and easily scannable, with sections divided into “The Goal”, “Top Omnichannel Obstacles”, and images of “The Set-Up” and “The Launch.” The downloadable PDF format makes the case study feel like an exclusive behind-the-scenes look, and uses colors and text that align with Bitly’s brand. Since the PDF opens in a separate browser, it’s easier for the viewer to avoid distractions as they scroll the pages.

9. “How Social Media Insights Turned Around Lexus’ Holiday Campaigns” by Infegy

It can be risky to include hurdles to your case studies, but with great risk comes great reward, right? In Infegy’s case, their gated content is worth the fill-out form information, particularly since their client is such a big name in the automobile industry: Lexus. The PDF case study reads like a compelling news article, including titles like “The Rise of Lexus” and “The Fall of Lexus”, colorful pie charts, and real online comments from customers who were unhappy with Lexus’ old holiday ads. The PDF is six pages but features big font and plenty of white space, so viewers can easily skim it in only a few minutes.

10. “Fiesta Bowl” by OH Partners

OH Partners doesn’t let superfluous details distract from the most important themes of their case study — “The Situation”, “The Solution”, and “The Success”. Each one of their case studies, including this Fiesta Bowl one, is organized into those three categories, with a video at the beginning followed by a few large font, easily skimmable paragraphs.

Best of all, OH Partners puts other case studies on the left side of the page, with highly enticing visuals to ensure a potential consumer can continue perusing the case studies until they’re confident in OH Partner’s track record.

11. “The Gifted Day” by Digitas

Digitas’ case study page for LVNG With, a cancer support community created by AstraZeneca, is one of the more emotionally moving campaigns in our list and might even evoke a few tears. The page begins with a heart-wrenching video of all the moments — a grandmother holding her grandchild, someone riding a roller coaster — that “weren’t supposed to happen”, exemplifying the enormous gift a single day could be to a terminal patient. Scrolling down, it’s obvious that Digitas kept AstraZeneca at the forefront of their strategy, but more than that, they used real people as their focal point.

12. “Wine.com” by RichRelevance

What first attracted me to RichRelevance’s Wine.com case study was the box on the left-side that quickly summed up the case study, including requirements, solution, and results. Adding an abridged version to a case study enables you to attract a larger audience, by offering a quick-read for those short on time, and a longer version for those interested in the details. RichRelevance’s case study also offers an impressive amount of information for those wanting to understand the nuances of their strategy, including a section titled “Fine-tuning Recommendations by Geography”.

13. “Synapse Innovation” by Uniface

SlideShare is a platform that allows you to encourage engagement from your viewers — which is likely why Netherlands-headquartered Uniface chose to use a SlideShare for their customer case study. As you click to the right you’re able to easily read their process from challenge to solution, and they provide a link to the full case study, and their social media accounts, on the last slide. Since each slide only needs a few lines of text, the SlideShare feels especially digestible.

14. “StyleHaul” by Asana

While Asana’s case study design looks initially text-heavy, there’s good reason — it reads like a creative story, and is told entirely from the customer’s perspective. For instance, Asana knows you won’t trust their word alone on their impressive customer service, so they let StyleHaul’s SVP of Business & Network Operations, Drew, tell you instead: “Our Customer Success Manager, Michael, was amazing. If I had a question, I wasn’t put into a queue—I could get it answered right away.” The entire case study reads like an in-depth interview, and captivates the reader through creative storytelling.

15. “Patagonia” by Amp Agency

Amp Agency’s Patagonia marketing strategy aimed to appeal to a new audience through guerilla marketing efforts and a coast-to-coast roadtrip. Their case study page effectively conveys a voyager theme, complete with real photos of Patagonia customers from across the U.S., and a map of the expedition. Personally, I liked Amp Agency’s storytelling approach best, which captures viewers’ attention start-to-finish simply because it’s an intriguing and unique approach to marketing.

16. “Budweiser Influencer Marketing Case Study” by Anomaly

Budweiser’s one page, poster-esque case study is a good reflection of a brand knowing its audience. Anomaly’s case study for Budweiser appears edgy and modern, with a design that playfully pushes the text to the right as it showcases pictures of social media influencers wearing a campaign-related t-shirt. Both the top and the bottom of the page are eye-catching, and the text itself is simple and straightforward.

17. “Clinique” by AdRoll

Sometimes, starting with the results is the best way to capture your readers’ attention. In Clinique’s case study, AdRoll does just that, beginning with some impressive numbers: “8.5 Times ROI, 14 Times ROAS, 265% Amount of Sales”. Once it has boldly outlined their results, AdRoll smartly pulls back to discuss the “Benefits of Personalized Ads”, letting the viewer consider how these same benefits might help their own company.

The page is short and sweet and ends with a compelling call-to-action — “AdRoll has generated revenues in excess of seven billion for its customers. Try it now.” The clean, whitespace-heavy page is an effective example of using a case study to capture future leads.

18. “TEXTCARE” by The George Institute

 The George Institute chose to display the case study for their program, TEXTCARE, in a documentary-style video with real people discussing how TEXTCARE helped them become healthier and more active. If your case study results benefited people, there’s likely no better way to showcase that than through on-screen interviews.

19. “Reclaiming The Identity of a Brand: A Levi’s Case Study” by Levi

If you’ve got a case study with dense text, one of the more creative solutions to breaking it up could be to organize it by pages. Levi’s case study uses this method — their page one, for instance, is labeled “Introduction”, while page two is labeled “Weaknesses in the late 1990s”. Each page tackles a different topic, and the design makes it feel more like reading a book than a business article.

20. “Red Sox Season Campaign” by CTP

What’s great about CTP’s case study page for their Red Sox Season Campaign is their combination of video, images, and text — a video automatically begins playing when you visit the page, and as you scroll, you’ll see additional embedded videos of Red Sox players, a compilation of print ads, and social media images you can click to enlarge. At the bottom, it says “Find out how we can do something similar for your brand.” The page is clean, cohesive, and aesthetically-pleasing, inviting viewers to appreciate the well-roundedness of CTP’s campaign for Boston’s beloved baseball team.

21. “BIC: Bringing One Stop Shopping to BIC Razors” by Genuine

Sometimes, simple is key. Genuine’s case study for BIC razor’s is straightforward and minimal, with only two short paragraphs, “The Insight” and “The Solution”, accompanied by two images. The simplicity of the page allows the reader to focus on the sense of humor in the text, like “Helping a consumer find their perfect match and making them smile along the way means gaining a brand loyalist for life. Or until they grow a beard.” The page displays Genuine’s brand personality well, while offering the viewer all the necessary information they’d need.

22. “Cisco Systems: Velocity to Value” by Apptio

An attention-grabbing title is one of the easiest, yet most effective, ways to help your case study stand out — like Apptio’s Cisco Systems case study, titled “Velocity to Value: A Mature IT Services Transformation Enables IT to Continually Simplify and Innovate.” The piece is well-organized and uses compelling headers to keep the reader engaged, and offers a side panel for viewers who just need the bullet points. Despite its length, Apptio’s case study is appealing enough to keep viewer’s attention.

23. “Airbnb’s Custom 360-view of the Customer” by Zendesk

Zendesk’s Airbnb case study reads like a blog, and focuses equally on Zendesk and Airbnb, highlighting a true partnership between the companies. To captivate readers, it begins like this: “Halfway around the globe is a place to stay with your name on it. At least for a weekend.” The piece focuses on telling a good story, and provides photographs of beautiful Airbnb locations. In a case study meant to highlight Zendesk’s helpfulness, nothing could be more authentic than their decision to focus on Airbnb’s service in such great detail.

24. “Herschel Delights with Hootsuite” by Hootsuite 

If you didn’t know this video was a case study for Hootsuite, you’d assume it was simply an artsy video capturing Herschel’s startup success. The Herschel marketing team mentions Hootsuite, but they do it authentically and remain primarily focused on the appreciation they have for their social media community. This video doesn’t have the feel of a traditional advertisement — instead, it feels unique and true to Herschel, highlighting Hootsuite as both a helpful and unobtrusive partner.

25. “4 Content Marketing Success Stories [Infographic]” by Kapost

You don’t always need a ton of text or a video to convey your message — sometimes, you just need images. Kapost’s infographic does a fantastic job of quickly providing the fundamental statistics a potential customer would need to know, without boggling down their readers with dense paragraphs. The infographic includes percentages, customer quotes, and colorful charts to provide the viewer with both numerical and emotional reasons they might choose Kapost. 

Ranking the 6 Most Accurate Keyword Research Tools

Posted by Jeff_Baker

In January of 2018 Brafton began a massive organic keyword targeting campaign, amounting to over 90,000 words of blog content being published.

Did it work?

Well, yeah. We doubled the number of total keywords we rank for in less than six months. By using our advanced keyword research and topic writing process published earlier this year we also increased our organic traffic by 45% and the number of keywords ranking in the top ten results by 130%.

But we got a whole lot more than just traffic.

From planning to execution and performance tracking, we meticulously logged every aspect of the project. I’m talking blog word count, MarketMuse performance scores, on-page SEO scores, days indexed on Google. You name it, we recorded it.

As a byproduct of this nerdery, we were able to draw juicy correlations between our target keyword rankings and variables that can affect and predict those rankings. But specifically for this piece…

How well keyword research tools can predict where you will rank.

A little background

We created a list of keywords we wanted to target in blogs based on optimal combinations of search volume, organic keyword difficulty scores, SERP crowding, and searcher intent.

We then wrote a blog post targeting each individual keyword. We intended for each new piece of blog content to rank for the target keyword on its own.

With our keyword list in hand, my colleague and I manually created content briefs explaining how we would like each blog post written to maximize the likelihood of ranking for the target keyword. Here’s an example of a typical brief we would give to a writer:

This image links to an example of a content brief Brafton delivers to writers.

Between mid-January and late May, we ended up writing 55 blog posts each targeting 55 unique keywords. 50 of those blog posts ended up ranking in the top 100 of Google results.

We then paused and took a snapshot of each URL’s Google ranking position for its target keyword and its corresponding organic difficulty scores from Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, SpyFu, and KW Finder. We also took the PPC competition scores from the Keyword Planner Tool.

Our intention was to draw statistical correlations between between our keyword rankings and each tool’s organic difficulty score. With this data, we were able to report on how accurately each tool predicted where we would rank.

This study is uniquely scientific, in that each blog had one specific keyword target. We optimized the blog content specifically for that keyword. Therefore every post was created in a similar fashion.

Do keyword research tools actually work?

We use them every day, on faith. But has anyone ever actually asked, or better yet, measured how well keyword research tools report on the organic difficulty of a given keyword?

Today, we are doing just that. So let’s cut through the chit-chat and get to the results…

This image ranks each of the 6 keyword research tools, in order, Moz leads with 4.95 stars out of 5, followed by KW Finder, SEMrush, AHREFs, SpyFu, and lastly Keyword Planner Tool.

While Moz wins top-performing keyword research tool, note that any keyword research tool with organic difficulty functionality will give you an advantage over flipping a coin (or using Google Keyword Planner Tool).

As you will see in the following paragraphs, we have run each tool through a battery of statistical tests to ensure that we painted a fair and accurate representation of its performance. I’ll even provide the raw data for you to inspect for yourself.

Let’s dig in!

The Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Yes, statistics! For those of you currently feeling panicked and lobbing obscenities at your screen, don’t worry — we’re going to walk through this together.

In order to understand the relationship between two variables, our first step is to create a scatter plot chart.

Below is the scatter plot for our 50 keyword rankings compared to their corresponding Moz organic difficulty scores.

This image shows a scatter plot for Moz's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. In general, the data clusters fairly tight around the regression line.

We start with a visual inspection of the data to determine if there is a linear relationship between the two variables. Ideally for each tool, you would expect to see the X variable (keyword ranking) increase proportionately with the Y variable (organic difficulty). Put simply, if the tool is working, the higher the keyword difficulty, the less likely you will rank in a top position, and vice-versa.

This chart is all fine and dandy, however, it’s not very scientific. This is where the Pearson Correlation Coefficient (PCC) comes into play.

The PCC measures the strength of a linear relationship between two variables. The output of the PCC is a score ranging from +1 to -1. A score greater than zero indicates a positive relationship; as one variable increases, the other increases as well. A score less than zero indicates a negative relationship; as one variable increases, the other decreases. Both scenarios would indicate a level of causal relationship between the two variables. The stronger the relationship between the two veriables, the closer to +1 or -1 the PCC will be. Scores near zero indicate a weak or no relatioship.

Phew. Still with me?

So each of these scatter plots will have a corresponding PCC score that will tell us how well each tool predicted where we would rank, based on its keyword difficulty score.

We will use the following table from statisticshowto.com to interpret the PCC score for each tool:

Coefficient Correlation R Score

Key

.70 or higher

Very strong positive relationship

.40 to +.69

Strong positive relationship

.30 to +.39

Moderate positive relationship

.20 to +.29

Weak positive relationship

.01 to +.19

No or negligible relationship

0

No relationship [zero correlation]

-.01 to -.19

No or negligible relationship

-.20 to -.29

Weak negative relationship

-.30 to -.39

Moderate negative relationship

-.40 to -.69

Strong negative relationship

-.70 or higher

Very strong negative relationship

In order to visually understand what some of these relationships would look like on a scatter plot, check out these sample charts from Laerd Statistics.

These scatter plots show three types of correlations: positive, negative, and no correlation. Positive correlations have data plots that move up and to the right. Negative correlations move down and to the right. No correlation has data that follows no linear pattern

And here are some examples of charts with their correlating PCC scores (r):

These scatter plots show what different PCC values look like visually. The tighter the grouping of data around the regression line, the higher the PCC value.

The closer the numbers cluster towards the regression line in either a positive or negative slope, the stronger the relationship.

That was the tough part – you still with me? Great, now let’s look at each tool’s results.

Test 1: The Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Now that we’ve all had our statistics refresher course, we will take a look at the results, in order of performance. We will evaluate each tool’s PCC score, the statistical significance of the data (P-val), the strength of the relationship, and the percentage of keywords the tool was able to find and report keyword difficulty values for.

In order of performance:

#1: Moz

This image shows a scatter plot for Moz's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. In general, the data clusters fairly tight around the regression line.

Revisiting Moz’s scatter plot, we observe a tight grouping of results relative to the regression line with few moderate outliers.

Moz Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.412

P-val

.003 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Strong

% Keywords Matched

100.00%

Moz came in first with the highest PCC of .412. As an added bonus, Moz grabs data on keyword difficulty in real time, rather than from a fixed database. This means that you can get any keyword difficulty score for any keyword.

In other words, Moz was able to generate keyword difficulty scores for 100% of the 50 keywords studied.

#2: SpyFu

This image shows a scatter plot for SpyFu's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. The plot is similar looking to Moz's, with a few larger outliers.

Visually, SpyFu shows a fairly tight clustering amongst low difficulty keywords, and a couple moderate outliers amongst the higher difficulty keywords.

SpyFu Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.405

P-val

.01 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Strong

% Keywords Matched

80.00%

SpyFu came in right under Moz with 1.7% weaker PCC (.405). However, the tool ran into the largest issue with keyword matching, with only 40 of 50 keywords producing keyword difficulty scores.

#3: SEMrush

This image shows a scatter plot for SEMrush's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. The data has a significant amount of outliers relative to the regression line.

SEMrush would certainly benefit from a couple mulligans (a second chance to perform an action). The Correlation Coefficient is very sensitive to outliers, which pushed SEMrush’s score down to third (.364).

SEMrush Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.364

P-val

.01 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Moderate

% Keywords Matched

92.00%

Further complicating the research process, only 46 of 50 keywords had keyword difficulty scores associated with them, and many of those had to be found through SEMrush’s “phrase match” feature individually, rather than through the difficulty tool.

The process was more laborious to dig around for data.

#4: KW Finder

This image shows a scatter plot for KW Finder's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. The data also has a significant amount of outliers relative to the regression line.

KW Finder definitely could have benefitted from more than a few mulligans with numerous strong outliers, coming in right behind SEMrush with a score of .360.

KW Finder Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.360

P-val

.01 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Moderate

% Keywords Matched

100.00%

Fortunately, the KW Finder tool had a 100% match rate without any trouble digging around for the data.

#5: Ahrefs

This image shows a scatter plot for AHREF's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. The data shows tight clustering amongst low difficulty score keywords, and a wide distribution amongst higher difficulty scores.

Ahrefs comes in fifth by a large margin at .316, barely passing the “weak relationship” threshold.

Ahrefs Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.316

P-val

.03 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Moderate

% Keywords Matched

100%

On a positive note, the tool seems to be very reliable with low difficulty scores (notice the tight clustering for low difficulty scores), and matched all 50 keywords.

#6: Google Keyword Planner Tool

This image shows a scatter plot for Google Keyword Planner Tool's keyword difficulty scores versus our keyword rankings. The data shows randomly distributed plots with no linear relationship.

Before you ask, yes, SEO companies still use the paid competition figures from Google’s Keyword Planner Tool (and other tools) to assess organic ranking potential. As you can see from the scatter plot, there is in fact no linear relationship between the two variables.

Google Keyword Planner Tool Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.045

P-val

Statistically insignificant/no linear relationship

Relationship

Negligible/None

% Keywords Matched

88.00%

SEO agencies still using KPT for organic research (you know who you are!) — let this serve as a warning: You need to evolve.

Test 1 summary

For scoring, we will use a ten-point scale and score every tool relative to the highest-scoring competitor. For example, if the second highest score is 98% of the highest score, the tool will receive a 9.8. As a reminder, here are the results from the PCC test:

This bar chart shows the final PCC values for the first test, summarized.

And the resulting scores are as follows:

Tool

PCC Test

Moz

10

SpyFu

9.8

SEMrush

8.8

KW Finder

8.7

Ahrefs

7.7

KPT

1.1

Moz takes the top position for the first test, followed closely by SpyFu (with an 80% match rate caveat).

Test 2: Adjusted Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Let’s call this the “Mulligan Round.” In this round, assuming sometimes things just go haywire and a tool just flat-out misses, we will remove the three most egregious outliers to each tool’s score.

Here are the adjusted results for the handicap round:

Adjusted Scores (3 Outliers removed)

PCC

Difference (+/-)

SpyFu

0.527

0.122

SEMrush

0.515

0.150

Moz

0.514

0.101

Ahrefs

0.478

0.162

KWFinder

0.470

0.110

Keyword Planner Tool

0.189

0.144

As noted in the original PCC test, some of these tools really took a big hit with major outliers. Specifically, Ahrefs and SEMrush benefitted the most from their outliers being removed, gaining .162 and .150 respectively to their scores, while Moz benefited the least from the adjustments.

For those of you crying out, “But this is real life, you don’t get mulligans with SEO!”, never fear, we will make adjustments for reliability at the end.

Here are the updated scores at the end of round two:

Tool

PCC Test

Adjusted PCC

Total

SpyFu

9.8

10

19.8

Moz

10

9.7

19.7

SEMrush

8.8

9.8

18.6

KW Finder

8.7

8.9

17.6

AHREFs

7.7

9.1

16.8

KPT

1.1

3.6

4.7

SpyFu takes the lead! Now let’s jump into the final round of statistical tests.

Test 3: Resampling

Being that there has never been a study performed on keyword research tools at this scale, we wanted to ensure that we explored multiple ways of looking at the data.

Big thanks to Russ Jones, who put together an entirely different model that answers the question: “What is the likelihood that the keyword difficulty of two randomly selected keywords will correctly predict the relative position of rankings?”

He randomly selected 2 keywords from the list and their associated difficulty scores.

Let’s assume one tool says that the difficulties are 30 and 60, respectively. What is the likelihood that the article written for a score of 30 ranks higher than the article written on 60? Then, he performed the same test 1,000 times.

He also threw out examples where the two randomly selected keywords shared the same rankings, or data points were missing. Here was the outcome:

Resampling

% Guessed correctly

Moz

62.2%

Ahrefs

61.2%

SEMrush

60.3%

Keyword Finder

58.9%

SpyFu

54.3%

KPT

45.9%

As you can see, this tool was particularly critical on each of the tools. As we are starting to see, no one tool is a silver bullet, so it is our job to see how much each tool helps make more educated decisions than guessing.

Most tools stayed pretty consistent with their levels of performance from the previous tests, except SpyFu, which struggled mightily with this test.

In order to score this test, we need to use 50% as the baseline (equivalent of a coin flip, or zero points), and scale each tool relative to how much better it performed over a coin flip, with the top scorer receiving ten points.

For example, Ahrefs scored 11.2% better than flipping a coin, which is 8.2% less than Moz which scored 12.2% better than flipping a coin, giving AHREFs a score of 9.2.

The updated scores are as follows:

Tool

PCC Test

Adjusted PCC

Resampling

Total

Moz

10

9.7

10

29.7

SEMrush

8.8

9.8

8.4

27

Ahrefs

7.7

9.1

9.2

26

KW Finder

8.7

8.9

7.3

24.9

SpyFu

9.8

10

3.5

23.3

KPT

1.1

3.6

-.4

.7

So after the last statistical accuracy test, we have Moz consistently performing alone in the top tier. SEMrush, Ahrefs, and KW Finder all turn in respectable scores in the second tier, followed by the unique case of SpyFu, which performed outstanding in the first two tests (albeit, only returning results on 80% of the tested keywords), then falling flat on the final test.

Finally, we need to make some usability adjustments.

Usability Adjustment 1: Keyword Matching

A keyword research tool doesn’t do you much good if it can’t provide results for the keywords you are researching. Plain and simple, we can’t treat two tools as equals if they don’t have the same level of practical functionality.

To explain in practical terms, if a tool doesn’t have data on a particular keyword, one of two things will happen:

  1. You have to use another tool to get the data, which devalues the entire point of using the original tool.
  2. You miss an opportunity to rank for a high-value keyword.

Neither scenario is good, therefore we developed a penalty system. For each 10% match rate under 100%, we deducted a single point from the final score, with a maximum deduction of 5 points. For example, if a tool matched 92% of the keywords, we would deduct .8 points from the final score.

One may argue that this penalty is actually too lenient considering the significance of the two unideal scenarios outlined above.

The penalties are as follows:

Tool

Match Rate

Penalty

KW Finder

100%

0

Ahrefs

100%

0

Moz

100%

0

SEMrush

92%

-.8

Keyword Planner Tool

88%

-1.2

SpyFu

80%

-2

Please note we gave SEMrush a lot of leniency, in that technically, many of the keywords evaluated were not found in its keyword difficulty tool, but rather through manually digging through the phrase match tool. We will give them a pass, but with a stern warning!

Usability Adjustment 2: Reliability

I told you we would come back to this! Revisiting the second test in which we threw away the three strongest outliers that negatively impacted each tool’s score, we will now make adjustments.

In real life, there are no mulligans. In real life, each of those three blog posts that were thrown out represented a significant monetary and time investment. Therefore, when a tool has a major blunder, the result can be a total waste of time and resources.

For that reason, we will impose a slight penalty on those tools that benefited the most from their handicap.

We will use the level of PCC improvement to evaluate how much a tool benefitted from removing their outliers. In doing so, we will be rewarding the tools that were the most consistently reliable. As a reminder, the amounts each tool benefitted were as follows:

Tool

Difference (+/-)

Ahrefs

0.162

SEMrush

0.150

Keyword Planner Tool

0.144

SpyFu

0.122

KWFinder

0.110

Moz

0.101

In calculating the penalty, we scored each of the tools relative to the top performer, giving the top performer zero penalty and imposing penalties based on how much additional benefit the tools received over the most reliable tool, on a scale of 0–100%, with a maximum deduction of 5 points.

So if a tool received twice the benefit of the top performing tool, it would have had a 100% benefit, receiving the maximum deduction of 5 points. If another tool received a 20% benefit over of the most reliable tool, it would get a 1-point deduction. And so on.

Tool

% Benefit

Penalty

Ahrefs

60%

-3

SEMrush

48%

-2.4

Keyword Planner Tool

42%

-2.1

SpyFu

20%

-1

KW Finder

8%

-.4

Moz

0

Results

All told, our penalties were fairly mild, with a slight shuffling in the middle tier. The final scores are as follows:

Tool

Total Score

Stars (5 max)

Moz

29.7

4.95

KW Finder

24.5

4.08

SEMrush

23.8

3.97

Ahrefs

23.0

3.83

Spyfu

20.3

3.38

KPT

-2.6

0.00

Conclusion

Using any organic keyword difficulty tool will give you an advantage over not doing so. While none of the tools are a crystal ball, providing perfect predictability, they will certainly give you an edge. Further, if you record enough data on your own blogs’ performance, you will get a clearer picture of the keyword difficulty scores you should target in order to rank on the first page.

For example, we know the following about how we should target keywords with each tool:

Tool

Average KD ranking ≤10

Average KD ranking ≥ 11

Moz

33.3

37.0

SpyFu

47.7

50.6

SEMrush

60.3

64.5

KWFinder

43.3

46.5

Ahrefs

11.9

23.6

This is pretty powerful information! It’s either first page or bust, so we now know the threshold for each tool that we should set when selecting keywords.

Stay tuned, because we made a lot more correlations between word count, days live, total keywords ranking, and all kinds of other juicy stuff. Tune in again in early September for updates!

We hope you found this test useful, and feel free to reach out with any questions on our math!

Disclaimer: These results are estimates based on 50 ranking keywords from 50 blog posts and keyword research data pulled from a single moment in time. Search is a shifting landscape, and these results have certainly changed since the data was pulled. In other words, this is about as accurate as we can get from analyzing a moving target.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Your Bookmarkable Guide to Social Media Image Sizes

When you’re selecting cover photos, shared images, and other social media assets, knowing the basic image dimensions might not cut it.

What if you want to make sure a certain part of your cover photo isn’t obstructed by your profile photo? And what’s the difference between shared link thumbnails, or in-stream photos — are the dimensions different for those?

As it turns out, sizing images correctly for social media is no simple task. Even just for Facebook marketing, photo dimensions vary according to where and how it’s shared — from cover photos, to timeline images, to profile pictures.

Download 25 free Instagram templates to increase engagement and elevate your  presence. 

But if you’re looking for a detailed guide on social media image sizes, you’re in luck. See a written list of essential social media image dimensions below, sorted by social network and the type of image you’re posting.

25-Free-Insta-Templates.png

 

Social Media Image Sizes

All image dimensions below are in pixels, width x height.

Facebook

Facebook profile page illustration

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Cover image: 820 x 312 (minimum 400 x 150)
  • Profile image: ≥180 x 180
  • Shared post image: 1200 x 630
  • Shared link preview image: 1200 x 628
  • Event image: 1920 x 1080

With 1.5 billion daily active users, Facebook continues to outpace other social media channels. The images you use here are crucial — choosing a lower-quality one can make or break your engagement. Pro tip: The way images display on your own timeline might look different.

Your profile image will appear 170 x 170 on desktop, and 32 x 32 as a thumbnail associated with your Facebook posts.

Twitter

Twitter in-stream image illustration

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Header image: 1500 x 500 | maximum 5 MB
  • Profile image: 400 x 400 | maximum 2 MB
  • In-stream image: 440 x 220

Twitter, meanwhile, is often the social network of choice for users to talk about you. It’s where customers ask questions, leave praise, and request help. But, the format and display have changed several times in the course of its history, so here are the image dimensions you need to know.

Although your profile image will display 200 x 200 on most devices, you should still upload a photo that is 400 x 400.

Google+

Google+ profile page illustration with photo icons

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Profile image: 250 x 250 | maximum 100 MB
  • Cover image: 1080 x 608 (minimum 480 x 270)
  • Shared image: 497 x 373
  • Shared video: ≥496 pixels wide
  • Shared link image thumbnail: 150 x 150

Don’t be fooled: Google+ is still an important place for brands to maintain a consistent presence — especially for small businesses who want to show up on local searches. This is true even if you think it might not get as much attention as other social media channels. The last thing you want is to have users stumble upon your profile there, only to find months (or more) of radio silence and distorted visual content.

Plus, where there’s Google+, there is Google, indicating a connection to the search giant itself.

Instagram

Instagram post illustration with photo icon

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Profile image: 110 x 110
  • Image thumbnail: 161 x 161
  • Shared photos: 1080 x 1080
  • Shared videos: 1080 pixels wide
  • Instagram Stories: 1080 x 1920 (minimum 600 x 1067) | maximum 4 GB

Given that Instagram’s bread-and-butter is visual content, you’ll want your presence on this channel to match that foundation, especially in terms of quality. And with more than 700 million daily active users, you’ll want to look your best.

Instagram scales shared photos down to 612 x 612. Nonetheless, you should still set these image posts to 1080 x 1080.

Pinterest

Pinterest profile page illustration in red

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Profile image: 165 x 165 | maximum 10 MB
  • Board cover image: 222 x 150 (minimum 55 x 55)
  • Pinned image preview: 236 pixels wide

Here’s a fun fact: 90% of content posted on Pinterest consists of external links. For that reason, it’s worthwhile to leverage Pinterest for referral traffic — but it still has to catch your audience’s eyes. Here are the dimensions to make sure your Pinterest presence maintains visual quality.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn profile page illustration

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Banner image: 1584 x 396 | maximum 4 MB
  • Profile image: 400 x 400 (minumum 200 x 200) | maximum 10 MB
  • Cover image: 1536 x 768
  • Shared image: 350 pixels wide
  • Shared link preview: 180 x 110
  • Company logo image: 300 x 300 | maximum 4 MB
  • Company cover image: 1536 x 768 (minimum 1192 x 220) | maximum 4 MB
  • Company page banner image: 646 x 220 | maximum 2 MB
  • Square logo (appears in company searches): 60 x 60 | maximum 2 MB

Love it or hate it, LinkedIn is the social channel for digital professional networking. And depending on your industry, it can still be a good vehicle for traffic and discovery, especially within the B2B sector. Plus, if you’re using it for recruiting purposes, it’s important to present well on a job that several people use for research on job listings, as well as employer culture, location, and more.

YouTube

YouTube channel page illustration with video grid template

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Channel cover images: 2560 x 1440 | maximum 4 MB
  • Channel icon: 800 x 800
  • Video thumbnail: 1280 x 720

Here’s another network where visual content reigns supreme — not to mention, one with more than one billion users. Make sure your own visual assets match that underlying purpose and philosophy — not just with the videos you share on there, but with the profile presence you maintain.

Keep in mind that people use YouTube on many different types of devices, and your channel cover image will vary in appearance across each one. Images at 2560 x 1440 will be optimized for TV screens, while desktop computers will display them at 2560 x 423. Mobile devices will display YouTube cover art at 1546 x 423, while tablets will display them at 1855 x 423.

Tumblr

Image Dimensions | File Sizes

  • Profile image: 128 x 128
  • Image post: 500 x 750 (maximum 1280 x 1920) | maximum 10 MB

Tumblr has been called many things: a blogging platform, a social network, and a content-sharing center where marketers and consumers alike can, well, share whatever they want. And with 430 million blogs currently registered on the site, you’ve got company — so shape up and make sure your visuals fit the right dimensions.

Keep in mind that if you’re uploading animated GIFs, your image sizes and restrictions are a bit different than static photos. Specifically, animated GIFs must be less than 3 MB and no more than 540 pixels.

Snapchat

At long last, we arrive at Snapchat: yet another social media channel known primarily for its visual assets. When it comes to using this network for marketing purposes, dimensions are fairly uniform, whether you’re simply looking to use a geofilter, or you’re hoping to share an ad or sponsored lens.

  • Geofilters, ads, and lenses: 1080 x 1920

Instagram Templates

I Looked at Everything Google Is Tracking on Me. Here’s What I Found.

When data privacy began making headlines this year, many people had a closer look at their app settings.

Questions like, “Is Facebook listening to my phone calls?” and “How much ownership do I have over my data?” began to arise, with users scrambling to switch off location tracking, download their social data files, and considering deleting certain apps altogether.

When I downloaded my own Facebook data, for example, and saw the extent of information it has about me — I also turned off certain settings, and not just on that social network.

On Google, too, I paused what it calls Location History: its ability to save your mobile device location history to better personalize your maps (if you use Google Maps, it’s safe to assume) and “recommendations based on places you’ve visited.”

But here’s the thing: According to a new report from the Associated Press (AP), some mobile Google services — like maps and browsers — could be automatically storing your location data, even if you’ve paused Location History.

So how (and why) is Google still storing this information — even with these settings turned off? And what, exactly, does Google know about me?

I decided to take a closer look.

I Looked at Everything Google Is Tracking on Me. Here’s What I Found.

A Bit of Background

When users first opt to pause Google’s Location History, they’ll receive a message that reads, “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps.”

That’s where this information is being stored — in a setting, it turns out, under Web & App Activity.

While the name doesn’t suggest that it may be tracking your location history, Web & App Activity is a separate setting that Google uses to track and save your search query and other behavior on Google apps — like Home, Assistant, or Maps.

The purpose, Google says, is not entirely unlike its tracking of your location history, or for that matter, Facebook’s tracking of your potential topic interests: more personalized results. 

In Google’s case, the company says the tracking and saving of this activity — which can also be paused, but has to be done so separately — lends itself to quicker search results and improved recommendations.

But it also lends itself to more personalized ads, which is the same case that Facebook makes for its use of data to inform advertisements that appear in users’ feeds.

By allowing advertisers to target users based on interests and demographics — data that Facebook says is not personally identifiable or it sells, ever — the content users see is more relevant, making for a better experience.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.15.46 PM

Source: Facebook

Google makes a similar statement about how its ads work: that it doesn’t sell your data to anyone, and that any data it collects or activity it tracks is to create a more personalized, relevant experience.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.13.45 PM

Source: Google

And while I have Google’s ad personalization turned off — it’s still collecting every single bit of activity I conduct across its apps and products.

What Google Is Tracking on Me

To start, here’s a look at the various products and services where Google is tracking my activity:

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.19.26 PM

Source: Google

To be clear, Google has this information about me, specifically, because I’ve conducted this activity while signed into my Google account.

What isn’t quite as clear, however, is how much Google is able to track on users who are not signed in — or if it has a way to later attach this behavior to a particular user once he or she signs in or creates an account.

Search Queries

To start, Google is tracking every single query I’ve made on its search engine, on every device I’m signed in on — from my phone (an iPhone, not a Google or Android operating system, where I do largely use Google’s Chrome browser), personal laptop, or work laptop.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.26.05 PM

I chose some of the less embarrassing results to share here — and left out, for instance, proof of my curiosity of certain reality TV personalities’ net worth. And while Google says that you can delete this activity, it remains unclear if and how long it remains stored.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.25.40 PM

Assistant Commands

I have, admittedly, grown a bit dependent on my smart speakers. After all, at one point, I tried using three of them.

But I’ve come to use my Google Home speaker more than the others, often asking it what time it is, to play white noise, or to ask for the current temperature in my neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.46.22 PM

Did you catch that last part? “In my neighborhood.” I don’t just ask Google what the weather is like in Boston — because of microclimates, I ask what the temperature is in my particular location.

That’s one way Google might be able to track where I am.

Combine that with some of my search history — e.g., “best facial in Boston” — and Google has even more information about where I might be, or be going.

That’s where things start to get tricky.

Maps

The AP’s investigation found that data pertaining to Princeton privacy researcher’s Gunes Acar travel was saved to his Google account — even though he had “Location History” paused.

In fact, researchers were able to build an interactive map of locations Acar — who uses an Android phone — visited over the course of three days.  Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 3.44.58 PM

Source: Associated Press

 

Upon closer inspection, I also saw that my “current location” was attached to specific tracked activities … even though I have Location History turned off.

When I searched for a recipe, for example, Google tracked that I did so from my “current location” — which is also stored.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 3.32.43 PM

It did the same thing when I used my Google Home to set my alarm.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 3.34.14 PM

That’s probably how the AP was able to compile a map of Acar’s known locations over several days — because of tracking points like these.

But why is it that Google attached a location to only some of my activity — like Assistant commands or search queries — and not all of them?

One possible theory is that I also had Google Maps running in the background at the same time. Depending on your mobile device’s location settings, certain apps can determine your location at all times, even if you’re not using it at a given moment. Those are the settings I had for Google Maps on my phone — which I quickly changed upon this discovery.

Image-1-1

But I also had a similar reaction to many of those quoted for AP’s investigation — in short, that it was “not cool” that my location was being tracked, despite having (thought that I) turned off Location History.

Even if Google hadn’t attached a location to these specific activities, some of the searches I conduct — especially those to find nearby business on Maps — can provide enough information to deduce my general whereabouts.

And while Google states its reasons for tracking that information — and explains how it’s kept safe — what’s more troubling is the number of users who are potentially unaware that this information is being collected.

Google, for its part, tells AP that it’s been nothing less than transparent about these settings — and that turning them off should be intuitive.

“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience,” a Google spokesperson told the AP. “We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”

Have you noticed unusual location or activity tracking? Feel free to reach out on Twitter.

The Ultimate Guide to Confidence

“To establish true self-confidence, we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives.” — Denis Waitley

I know what you’re thinking … easier said than done, right?

Nobody is born with high or low self-confidence. Confidence is a feeling that people develop and work on over time. For most people, confidence is something that comes and goes.

Think about it in terms of a cycle: When someone is at the top of the cycle, they are focused on their successes and accomplishments, meaning they might feel confident and strong. But when they are at the bottom of their cycle, they are focused on their failures and may feel low self-confidence or even defeat.

If you can identify with the feeling I’m referring to at the bottom of the confidence cycle, know you’re not alone. Everyone struggles with self-confidence every now and then. The key is realizing that confidence is like a muscle — the more you work on it, the easier it will become for you to use and maintain.

This article will teach you why everyone should work on their self-confidence, and it’ll provide you with ways to build your self-confidence.

But first — what is self-confidence?

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is the feeling you have when you strut into a job interview knowing you’re going to impress the hiring manager. A person feels confident when they believe they can successfully do something by applying their judgement, knowledge, and prior experiences.

How Does Self Confidence Impact Your Life?

Think about a time when you felt extremely confident in your ability to do something.

Did you feel an adrenaline rush? Did you feel strong and powerful? Did you feel as though you could conquer the world?

Self-confidence does a lot of things for us. It boosts our self-esteem, diminishes stress, and often pushes us to act. But most importantly, it makes us feel good about ourselves.

Let’s dive into a few more ways self-confidence impacts our lives:

Your happiness and self-esteem will increase

Self-esteem is closely related to confidence but has a slightly different definition — it is a person’s evaluation of their self-worth and value.

There is a direct correlation between confidence and self-esteem. When you believe in yourself — your talents, capabilities, worth, and potential — both your self-esteem and confidence increase.

When your self-esteem increases, you believe you are worthy of the life you dream of and the success you desire. Not only will you become more confident, but you will more easily accept your failures, give yourself the credit you deserve, accept new challenges, and become happier.

In fact, self-esteem always exists with happiness — and there are studies to prove it. In almost every instance, people who feel good about themselves are significantly happier than those who lack self-worth. When self-confidence increases, your self-esteem and happiness do the same.

Think about it in terms of the following chart. Most people would feel high self-esteem, sure about their abilities, and good about standing up for their beliefs when behaving confidently — as listed in the left column. They are doing what makes them happy. The opposite is true about the right column.

confident-behavior-chart

Source: MindTools

Your stress and anxiety will decrease

Did your math teacher ever randomly call on the students who weren’t the strongest mathematicians to complete a problem in front of the entire class? Mine did.

Could you sense the stress and anxiety fuming from those students (yes … I was one of them) as they reluctantly walked to the front of the classroom?

My palms were sweaty and my right hand would shake while writing on the chalkboard — the pressure was on!

When a person in a situation like this doubts their abilities, they are down at the bottom of that confidence cycle I mentioned earlier. Due to increased stress and anxiety, they start to believe they don’t have the knowledge or experience to complete a task (or in this situation, complete a math problem correctly), even if that isn’t truly the case.

The feeling of low confidence and not being good or smart enough often manifests as stress or anxiety. And in extreme cases, it can even turn your body’s fight or flight mode on, which isn’t ideal unless you’re being chased by a hungry lion (or are experiencing another life or death situation).

lion-gif

Stress and anxiety on a regular basis can be detrimental to your self-confidence. These feelings cause excess release of cortisol and norepinephrine in the brain — making our bodies feel out of control and overwhelmed.

Unless you are actually trying to avoid becoming the lion’s lunch, there’s no reason to feel these feelings. And you certainly don’t want them just because your math teacher called you up to the board to complete a problem. Stress and anxiety can cloud your judgment and prevent you from thinking logically.

When stress and anxiety fade away, the excess release of cortisol and norepinephrine in the brain come to a halt. You are able to believe and trust in your abilities again, think logically, and feel as though you are ready to tackle new challenges that come your way — you’ll jump back to the top of that confidence cycle.

You’ll feel more motivated to act

If someone is confident in their ability to successfully do something, they’re more likely to volunteer to complete a task than someone who is less confident.

For example, imagine your manager coming to your team and saying, “Is anyone able to help me design a logo?” Chances are, the person with the background in design, or the most knowledge in the field, would volunteer their expertise … versus another person without any experience whatsoever.

This is called the power of certainty. When you’re more certain of — and confident in — your knowledge and abilities, you’re more likely to act.

If you’re confident in your abilities, not only will you feel more motivated to act, but the people around you will also want to trust you more … which takes us to our next section:  

People will trust you

If you’re the one with the design background, do speak up about that logo and successfully follow through with a fantastic result. You’re not only going to feel a boost in your self-confidence (“Yay! I did this, and I did this well”), but your manager and team will also trust you more. They’ll think of you next time they have a design project.

When you are confident in your abilities, people are more likely to trust you, listen to you, and follow you.

For example, imagine you’re working on a group project, and you need to elect a leader. One person in the group says, “I know I can lead us to success, and I already have a few ideas I’d like to share with you on how to accomplish this.” Another person in the group says, “I  don’t really like leadership roles, but I guess I could try if you all really want me to.”

The first person seems a lot more convincing, right? They also sound significantly more confident in their abilities to complete the job … and succeed.

When you are confident, more people are likely to follow your lead.

You have a greater potential for success

There are several studies that show a strong positive correlation between high levels of self-confidence and success. That’s not to say that people who struggle with confidence won’t be successful. However, research shows that people with higher levels of self-confidence achieve greater success in multiple areas of life.

There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. People who are confident have self-efficacy — a belief that they have the innate ability to achieve their goals, overcome challenges, and succeed
  2. When someone believes in their abilities, they are more likely to try until they succeed. They then have the experience that creates self-efficacy — it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now that you understand the benefits of having self-confidence, you may be asking yourself how you can work on your own self-confidence.

How to Build Self-Confidence

As I said earlier, self-confidence is like a muscle — you need to work it in order to improve. This means anyone can become more confident. Try these exercises to work on your self-confidence:

Get to Know Yourself

Knowing yourself means you understand your strengths and weaknesses. That also means you know exactly which areas of your life you are confident in and which areas you need to work on.

It’s clear why you would feel confident about your strengths. If you are good at something, you are much more likely to share your knowledge or act on that strength rather than a weakness or vulnerability of yours.

Take advantage of these strengths and use them to exercise your confidence. If you know how to do something, be the first person to raise your hand and demonstrate your skill or teach others. If you are confident in research you did, share your expertise. This will make you feel good and boost your confidence.

Then, work on some of your weaknesses. A confident person is not only aware of their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but they embrace and use them as motivation.

Whether it’s studying a little harder, practicing more, asking for help, or spending a few extra minutes re-reading something, you can always push yourself out of your comfort zone to improve — and become more confident — in areas in which you typically lack confidence.

For example, if you’re someone who freezes up and gets anxiety while speaking publicly, sign up for a class or two. Practice in front of your family and friends. Then, when you have to give that speech, not only will you impress the audience, but you will impress yourself. This will help you develop the self-confidence you’re striving for an area in which you typically struggle.  

Be Prepared

When you are prepared to do something, you’re more confident in your ability to accomplish a task successfully.  

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” — Arthur Ashe

Preparation is a simple way to boost confidence. Think about it in terms your co-worker presenting at a big conference. This presentation is a reflection of your fellow employee’s work and knowledge, and it also requires them to speak alone in front of 50+ people — managers, directors, and other people of great influence included — for 30+ minutes. Sweating yet?

Your co-worker can prepare to the point that they are able to walk into that conference on presentation day excited to get started. By avoiding procrastination, knowing the information like the back of their hand, preparing for questions — or even technical difficulties — and working on their public speaking skills prior to the due date, they will feel confident and ready to give their presentation.

Think About Your Appearance

People can tell a lot about you and your level of confidence by the way you physically present yourself. That includes your overall dress and body language.

Imagine you’re conducting a job interview, and you have two equally qualified candidates. The first candidate is slouched over the entire interview, not making eye contact, and looks slightly disheveled. The second candidate gives you a firm handshake, is sitting up straight, looks you directly in the eyes, and is wearing a nice suit. Who would you choose for the job?

The second candidate seems significantly more confident, prepared, and impressive — and you can probably gather all of that about a person without even talking to them.

It’s proven that people feel greater self-confidence and esteem when they feel good about their appearance. So use appearance to your advantage — not only will you radiate confidence for the people around you to notice, but you will also use your appearance and body language to make yourself feel more confident in any type of situation.

Stay Positive

Positivity is a key component to building self-confidence. It’s what keeps you from beating yourself up after a setback or mistake.

By not accepting failure and staying positive, you’ll actually help yourself become a more confident person.

yes-you-can

Here’s an example: If you’re trying to learn a new software at work, and you’re continually making mistakes, sure, you might be frustrated, but I’d bet you’re also learning a lot throughout the process.

Once you’re finally able to iron out these issues and understand how to use the new software, you have proven to yourself that you can get through a challenging time. This should not only get you excited and make you feel confident about this specific situation, but it should also make you feel confident in your abilities to tackle another difficult project.

It’s not always the stuff that comes naturally to you that makes you super confident. Instead, it’s usually the stuff you have to work really hard to get through.

Resources to Help You Build Confidence

Whether it’s a book, podcast, or TED Talk, there are a number of resources to help you build self-confidence.

Pick Up a Book

There are hundreds of books on building self-confidence and how to use it  to your advantage. Here are few options::

You Are a Badass

This humorous bestseller is a self-help book that contains a guide on how to create a life you love. It’s filled with inspiring stories, advice, and applicable ways to incorporate aspects of the guide in your life.

This book will help you build confidence in everything you do, love yourself, and achieve your biggest goals.

The Confidence Code

Research, gender, behavior, and cognition are all discussed in The Confidence Code. The book — which is targeted at women — talks about the reasons why men are typically more confident in the workplace and gives female readers advice on how to close this gap.

This is a great option for any woman who wants to learn how to develop more confidence at work and achieve their dream careers, whether or not they’re in a male-driven field.

Daring Greatly

This New York Times #1 bestseller dives into the ways that vulnerability can help measure courage.

This book — written by Brené Brown — teaches individuals how to use their vulnerabilities and challenges to their advantage. According to society and culture, vulnerabilities are weaknesses. But according to Brown, they are a way to build courage and confidence.

Listen to a Podcast

Maybe you need some audio inspiration before your next confidence challenge? Here are a few podcasts that will help you build your self-confidence:

Earn Your Happy

This podcast gives you insight and advice on ways to work through your fears, boost self-esteem, and build your confidence in both your personal and professional lives. It’s great for those who need the occasional reminder to stay positive and take life a little less seriously.

Daily Meditation Podcast

Meditation pushes individuals to look inward, reflect, and determine what changes they can make to improve their lives.

With daily meditations on confidence, self-esteem, anxiety, confidence, and stress reduction, this podcast will help you work towards the healthy and happy lifestyle you’re looking to achieve.

Your Motivational High 5

All you need is five minutes to enjoy this podcast.

This podcast will take you through five minutes of meditation and help you develop good mental health practices. This podcast is quick, effective, and forces listeners to take a short break during the day to focus on their happiness, well-being, confidence, and strength.

Conclusion

Self-confidence is not always easy to achieve or maintain, but it’s something that everyone deserves to experience. There are many reasons why confidence is essential in our personal and professional lives, but most importantly, it plays an integral role in our happiness.

Try boosting your own confidence and self-esteem in some areas of your life that need a bit of attention or work. Give a few of the steps mentioned above a try and learn what works for you.

How to Win Some Local Customers Back from Amazon this Holiday Season

Posted by MiriamEllis

Your local business may not be able to beat Amazon at the volume of their own game of convenient shipping this holiday season, but don’t assume it’s a game you can’t at least get into!

This small revelation took me by surprise last month while I was shopping for a birthday gift for my brother. Like many Americans, I’m feeling growing qualms about the economic and societal impacts of putting my own perceived convenience at the top of a list of larger concerns like ensuring fair business practices, humane working conditions, and sustainable communities.

So, when I found myself on the periphery of an author talk at the local independent bookstore and the book happened to be one I thought my brother would enjoy, I asked myself a new question:

“I wonder if this shop would ship?”

There was no signage indicating such a service, but I asked anyway, and was delighted to discover that they do. Minutes later, the friendly staff was wrapping up a signed copy of the volume in nice paper and popping a card in at no extra charge. Shipping wasn’t free, but I walked away feeling a new kind of happiness in wishing my sibling a “Happy Birthday” this year.

And that single transaction not only opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t have to remain habituated to gift shopping at Amazon or similar online giants for remote loved ones, but it also inspired this article.

Let’s talk about this now, while your local business, large or small, still has time to make plans for the holidays. Let’s examine this opportunity together, with a small study, a checklist, and some inspiration for seasonal success.

What do people buy most at the holidays and who’s shipping?

According to Statista, the categories in the following chart are the most heavily shopped during the holiday season. I selected a large town in California with a population of 60,000+, and phoned every business in these categories that was ranking in the top 10 of Google’s Local Finder view. This comprised both branded chains and independently-owned businesses. I asked each business if I came in and purchased items whether they could ship them to a friend.

Category

% Offer Shipping

Notes

Clothing

80%

Some employees weren’t sure. Outlets of larger store brands couldn’t ship. Some offered shipping only if you were a member of their loyalty program. Small independents consistently offered shipping. Larger brands promoted shopping online.

Electronics

10%

Larger stores all stressed going online. The few smaller stores said they could ship, but made it clear that it was an unusual request.

Games/Toys/Dolls etc.

25%

Large stores promote online shopping. One said they would ship some items but not all. Independents did not ship.

Food/Liquor

20%

USPS prohibits shipping alcohol. I surveyed grocery, gourmet, and candy stores. None of the grocery stores shipped and only two candy stores did.

Books

50%

Only two bookstores in this town, both independent. One gladly ships. The other had never considered it.

Jewelry

60%

Chains require online shopping. Independents more open to shipping but some didn’t offer it.

Health/Beauty

20%

With a few exceptions, cosmetic and fitness-related stores either had no shipping service or had either limited or full online shopping.

Takeaways from the study

  • Most of the chains promote online shopping vs. shopping in their stores, which didn’t surprise me, but which strikes me as opportunity being left on the table.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the number of independent clothing and jewelry stores that gladly offered to ship gift purchases.
  • I was concerned by how many employees initially didn’t know whether or not their employer offered shipping, indicating a lack of adequate training.
  • Finally, I’ll add that I’ve physically visited at least 85% of these businesses in the past few years and have never been told by any staff member about their shipping services, nor have I seen any in-store signage promoting such an offer.

My overarching takeaway from the experiment is that, though all of us are now steeped in the idea that consumers love the convenience of shipping, a dominant percentage of physical businesses are still operating as though this realization hasn’t fully hit in… or that it can be safely ignored.

To put it another way, if Amazon has taken some of your customers, why not take a page from their playbook and get shipping?

The nitty-gritty of brick-and-mortar shipping

62% of consumers say the reason they’d shop offline is because they want to see, touch, and try out items.RetailDive

There’s no time like the holidays to experiment with a new campaign. I sat down with a staff member at the bookstore where I bought my brother’s gift and asked her some questions about how they manage shipping. From that conversation, and from some additional research, I came away with the following checklist for implementing a shipping offer at your brick-and-mortar locations:

✔ Determine whether your business category is one that lends itself to holiday gift shopping.

✔ Train core or holiday temp staff to package and ship gifts.

✔ Craft compelling messaging surrounding your shipping offer, perhaps promoting pride in the local community vs. pride in Amazon. Don’t leave it to customers to shop online on autopilot — help them realize there’s a choice.

✔ Cover your store and website with messaging highlighting this offering, at least two months in advance of the holidays.

✔ In October, run an in-store campaign in which cashiers verbally communicate your holiday shipping service to every customer.

✔ Sweeten the offer with a dedication of X% of sales to a most popular local cause/organization/institution.

✔ Promote your shipping service via your social accounts.

✔ Make an effort to earn a mention of your shipping service in local print and radio news.

✔ Set clear dates for when the last purchases can be made to reach their destinations in time for the holidays.

✔ Coordinate with the USPS, FedEx, or UPS to have them pick up packages from your location daily.

✔ Determine the finances of your shipping charges. You may need to experiment with whether free shipping would put too big of a hole in your pocket, or whether it’s necessary to compete with online giants at the holidays.

✔ Track the success of this campaign to discover ROI.

Not every business is a holiday shopping destination, and online shopping may simply have become too dominant in some categories to overcome the Amazon habit. But, if you determine you’ve got an opportunity here, designate 2018 as a year to experiment with shipping with a view towards making refinements in the new year.

You may discover that your customers so appreciate the lightbulb moment of being able to support local businesses when they want something mailed that shipping is a service you’ll want to instate year-round. And not just for gifts… consumers are already signaling at full strength that they like having merchandise shipped to themselves!

Adding the lagniappe: Something extra

For the past couple of years, economists have reported that Americans are spending more on restaurants than on groceries. I see a combination of a desire for experiences and convenience in that, don’t you? It has been joked that someone needs to invent food that takes pictures of itself for social sharing! What can you do to capitalize on this desire for ease and experience in your business?

Cards, carols, and customs are wreathed in the “joy” part of the holidays, but how often do customers genuinely feel the enjoyment when they are shopping these days? True, a run to the store for a box of cereal may not require aesthetic satisfaction, but shouldn’t we be able to expect some pleasure in our purchasing experiences, especially when we are buying gifts that are meant to spread goodwill?

When my great-grandmother got tired from shopping at the Emporium in San Francisco, one of the superabundant sales clerks would direct her to the soft surroundings of the ladies’ lounge to refresh her weary feet on an automatic massager. She could lunch at a variety of nicely appointed in-store restaurants at varied prices. Money was often tight, but she could browse happily in the “bargain basement”. There were holiday roof rides for the kiddies, and holiday window displays beckoning passersby to stop and gaze in wonder. Great-grandmother, an immigrant from Ireland, got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the few dollars in her purse.

It may be that those lavish days of yore are long gone, taking the pleasure of shopping with them, and that we’re doomed to meager choosing between impersonal online shopping or impersonal offline warehouses … but I don’t think so.

The old Emporium was huge, with multiple floors and hundreds of employees … but it wasn’t a “big box store”.

There’s still opportunity for larger brands to differentiate themselves from their warehouse-lookalike competitors. Who says retail has to look like a fast food chain or a mobile phone store?

And as for small, independent businesses? I can’t open my Twitter feed nowadays without encountering a new and encouraging story about the rise of localism and local entrepreneurialism.

It’s a good time to revive the ethos of the lagniappe — the Louisiana custom of giving patrons a little something extra with their purchase, something that will make it worth it to get off the computer and head into town for a fun, seasonal experience. Yesterday’s extra cookie that made up the baker’s dozen could be today’s enjoyable atmosphere, truly expert salesperson, chair to sit down in when weary, free cup of spiced cider on a wintry day… or the highly desirable service of free shipping. Chalk up the knowledge of this need as one great thing Amazon has gifted you.

In 2017, our household chose to buy as many holiday presents as possible from Main Street for our nearby family and friends. We actually enjoyed the experience. In 2018, we plan to see how far our town can take us in terms of shipping gifts to loved ones we won’t have a chance to see. Will your business be ready to serve our newfound need?

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